Less Than Three, Jess Whitecroft
Rating: 4 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay RomCom
Tags: Romance, Twins, Humour, Contemporary
Length: 183 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
“Three people in a relationship is complicated enough, let alone when two of them are pretending to be the same person.”
Gregarious, sophisticated, comfortable in his own skin – surgeon Simon Gallagher is none of these things. That’s why – whenever the social occasion demands – he hires his extroverted actor twin Nathan to put on a white coat, flatten down his hair and pretend to be him for the evening.
Nathan’s latest mission? To chat up an adorable Bloomsbury bookseller named Rob, because Simon is far too shy to make the first move. Despite being busy with the role of a lifetime, Nathan reluctantly agrees to play Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s not like the situation is going to get messy, since Nathan’s straight.
As the romantic complications and cases of mistaken identity pile up, Nathan is forced to confront not only the fact that he’s further up the Kinsey Scale than he previously thought, but also that he might just be falling in love with his brother’s boyfriend.
This book was a clever play around with Cyrano de Bergerac/Valmont/Dangerous Liaisons. Nathan Gallagher is an actor who, at the beginning of this story, makes more as a bar tender than he does getting meagre acting roles. The flat he shares with his friend is about to go on the market as well, so he needs to move out. When his identical twin brother, Simon, finds a man he fancies he asks Nathan to help him by being ‘Simon’ on one date, and then by aiding with his more romantically pleasing words via Bluetooth technology. It’s not the first time Nathan has impersonated or helped out his socially awkward identical twin.
I couldn’t very well turn him down after years of impersonating him, so I flattened my hair, took the train into London and introduced myself as Simon Forbes Gallagher, socially awkward brainbox and future doctor.
When Nathan doesn’t initially agree, Simon offers money. Perhaps Nathan can think of this as a paid acting gig? He does need the money after all and, furthermore, he now needs somewhere to live. His more fiscally secure, orthopaedic surgeon brother can also provide that. It sounds rather off-putting but it’s a contemporary story based around a classic and a familiar theme. It works.
For all his private life has just become weird, Nathan scores the role in an off West End Dangerous Liaisons production. A big boost for him. The comparisons for the reader between the play and life are clever. Jess Whitecroft is a gifted writer, this time she deftly weaves similarities in the book we are reading, the play, and a timeless and, in this post-#MeToo production, updated look at a classic.
Of course Nathan and Rob end up together. You know pretty soon after going in. Rob works in a bookstore and lives on a barge and Nathan is an actor and loves anything tending toward more artsy. Simon and Rob don’t have the same outlook on anything except liking dick – which they get a good crack at in the beginning, but sex alone isn’t enough. When aspiring author Rob is told by pragmatic Simon that the book he has in his head isn’t real, that you can say you’re anything but without doing it you aren’t, that signals the end for them. Nathan and Rob remain friends but friends is romance code for they were going to fuck and feel guilt because Simon didn’t know they had hooked up. I thought that was a tad of a stretch to worry about because they, Simon and Rob, only saw each other for about a week or so, but it fits the general vibe of the tale and a moral conscience. It’s also the first small hurdle they face, but then something else quite dramatic occurs that is a test of their burgeoning romance. It isn’t dragged out but it definitely tugs at the heartstrings and makes you hope-upon-hope that everything will work out well.
This is another very good Jess Whitecroft book. She knows how to write a romcom. She knows how to illicit emotion. She knows how to write characters you can engage with, and I engaged with them all, including Simon. Rob was a delight, so wonderfully open, vulnerable, and honest. I hated it every time Nathan said “I’m straight.” I thought that was unenlightened for someone who was pretty switched on as a person. I’m not a fan of Kinsey Scale romances. I have a lot of reasons it ticks me the hell off, erasure being one of them, denial another. That aside, at least he did cough up to having been with other guys, and Kinsey, and his dickhole, got a passing dig. Nathan couldn’t not tell Rob about their odd beginnings, the switcheroo, and I respected that. He also grew to think of Robert as the most wonderful creature in existence, that he would like to impress him, and I enjoyed that very, very much. Because Rob is. He’s a delight.
“Well, I think it’s very impressive,” he said, and I almost wished I was a surgeon in that moment, because impressing him felt strangely good.
The romance was well developed, Nathan and Rob had shared interests. They bonded over their enjoyment of the arts in general, the sometimes questionable movies and actors they liked, their love of books, especially an appreciation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and a mutual respect for Cyrano de Bergerac/Valmont/Dangerous Liaisons, especially after the production that Nathan was playing the Vicomte in.
This is Jess Whitecroft, so there are moments of sheer and unadulterated laugh out loud humour. I don’t always laugh hard at things I find funny, I can be amused without busting a gut, but this author often makes me snort loudly at thoughts and dialogue.
The only POV is Nathan’s, except for the prologue which is solely from Rob’s POV.
The writing is clever and thoughtful, and you can take as much or as little meaning from it as you’d like. It can simply be a fun and sexy contemporary romance or it can be an homage to a classic piece of writing and its different iterations or productions.
The MCs are easy to fall for, Nathan is funny, caring, and kind. Rob is a delight and so genuine. Together they are the right couple.
Simon seems older than his twin because he is more rigid on the surface in outlook and demeanour. I’m wondering if Ms Whitecroft has a book in store for Simon.
My brother’s love life – as far as I could tell – was a lot like Fifty Shades Of Grey: long periods of boredom interspersed with awkward conversations about cheese and Twinings tea bags.
However, cheese, Twinings, and 50 Shades aside, there is more to him than we get to know. By book’s end his practical merit is definitely proven, along with hints of what lies within. His feelings are a bit more locked down but I think it would be fun watching them bubble to the surface. The ending would suggest that may be the case. He’s also a self-professed gay man so, for this particular genre, that’s already a good fit. Here’s hoping Simon gets a little of his own <3
Less Than Three is an appropriate and cute title for this book. The social media emoji of love you or love does form a basis for the title and it has personal meaning for Nathan and Rob. The overall story was a little gem. I never do feel like finishing and leaving one of Jess Whitecroft’s books, for all the right reasons. The characters always make me feel a part of their world and these MCs were no exception. I pulled faces, commiserated, laughed, went aww, and generally applauded their intimacy, celebrated their love. Overall, there’s much to savour with this book – the sense of fun, the romance, the endearing characters with the odd obstacle to overcome, and the ending is happy – bonus. 4 Stars!